Critic, Book World

President Trump shocked the world once again on Thursday when, during a meeting about immigration, he reportedly asked, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"

"Toilets: A Spotter's Guide," by Lonely Planet ("Toilets: A Spotter's Guide," by Lonely Planet/"Toilets: A Spotter's Guide," by Lonely Planet)

As usual, the president is wrong about immigrants. As a minor aside, it's worth noting that he's also wrong about shitholes.

A recent photo book from Lonely Planet presents these essential utilities in all their glory. "Toilets: A Spotter's Guide" can't redeem the president's racist metaphor, but it offers a delightful tour of ingenuity around the world. Each page features a color photo of a striking toilet, a brief description and a small world map. It's a survey that gets to the bottom of world travel in the most delightful way.

The book opens with a pair of "lobster loos" in Wellington, New Zealand. Designed to look like the "boggly-eyes" of a giant crustacean, this pair of toilets was built in hopes of attracting tourists to the waterfront. It's hard to imagine any child — or anyone young at heart — being able to resist the urge to enter these bizarre structures, whether they have to go or not.

In Qatar at the Museum of Islamic Art, the dramatic facilities designed by I.M. Pei "look capable of blasting off into space and attaining warp speed within seconds," which may be more relief than you bargained for.

Not all the toilets celebrated in this collection are so space-aged, though. Some are merely ingenious, such as the large iron tube raised off the ground in the Uzbekistan desert, where temperatures can reach 124 degrees. Likewise, an unwalled toilet in Washington state offers a chance to sit and gaze at Mount Baker — and at anyone else who might be gazing at you. Despite the view, the editors concede that it "can be a bit breezy when the weather comes in."

Many of the photos illustrate a beautiful blending of local culture and practicality. At the Quirimbas National Park in Mozambique, for instance, the bathroom sits high above the ground, and the walls are constructed of large, tightly bound reeds. "Visitors enjoy the ultimate long-drop loo with a view," the editors write.

Never scatological, always respectful and often impishly witty, "Toilets" is a breezy look at the most essential but often overlooked utility. And if nothing else, these photos offer a chance to flush Mr. Trump from your mind for a few glorious minutes.

Ron Charles is the editor of Book World and host of TotallyHipVideoBook Review.

A Spotter's Guide

Lonely Planet. 128 pp. $11.99